Acorn apprentice Niall Perks has gone from working in a fish and chip shop to developing a promising IT and telecoms career and winning a prestigious national award in the space of 14 months.
Niall, 20 from Cardiff, collected the Foundation Apprentice of the Year award at this year's Apprenticeship Awards Cymru, held at Venue Cymru, Llandudno on October 20.
The awards ceremony brought together the cream of learners, employers and training providers across Wales, who have excelled in contributing to the development of the Welsh Government's Traineeships, Jobs Growth Wales and Apprenticeship programmes. The Apprenticeship Programme is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.
Thirty-three start learners, employers and learning providers involved in the delivery of a range of successful skills programmes across Wales were shortlisted for the prestigious awards, jointly organised by the Welsh Government and the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW). The awards are sponsored by Pearson PLC and supported by media partner, Media Wales.
Niall has used the Welsh Government's apprenticeship programme to make major strides in his career. He opted for an apprenticeship instead of going to university and has progressed from a part-time job in a fish and chip shop to a role as a Unified Communications Support Engineer with Cwmbran-based IT company SIPHON where he brings an innovative approach, adding value for customers and his employer.
While working on his Foundation Apprenticeship, he developed new ways of working that resolve customers' problems faster, with an increase in the number of issues resolved per engineer. He also used his coding skills to develop a more efficient way for his boss to create monthly reports for customers.
Niall's IT expertise was recognised when he won a gold medal in the world skills UK heats for Advanced Support Technicians in Cardiff and training provider Acorn judged him 'Learner of the Month' in May 2016, leading a field of 1,000 apprentices across the country.
He said: "this award reinforces the fact that I have done well and it's a good start on a path to a hopefully prosperous career. I plan to continue gaining more skills and knowledge of the industry, which will hopefully lead to a high level technical support role in the future.
"I believe that my journey as an apprentice can inspire others to see that university isn't required to have a successful career."
Wales' Minister for Skills and Science, Julie James congratulated Niall, the other award winners and the shortlisted finalists.
She said: "we are proud to be delivering one of the most successful programmes in Europe with success rates in Wales remaining well above 80 percent.
"Developing skilled people is vital for our economy. We have some truly exceptional apprentices here in Wales and the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru provide a perfect platform for us to celebrate their hard work and achievements. Equally important are the learning providers and employers who go the extra mile to support their apprentices."